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Thread: Sensitivity training in other cultures

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Sensitivity training in other cultures

    Question: does sensitivity training or the concept of "not offending or being offended by the foreigners" exist in non-Anglo cultures? I'm under the impression that Americans and Brits have to take extraordinary measures to be sensitive to the cultural dos and taboos of others. but for those others anything goes when the tables are turned. Consider the literally hundreds of books offering advice like "Don't make the thumbs-up sign around Australians" and "Don't offer Arabs objects using your left hand"

    Are Japanese businesspeople told that Americans don't mean to offend by not handling an offered business card like a delicate flower? Do Arab businesspeople understand it's not a grave insult if a European or American accidentally reveals the soles of their shoes? Are the French ever told that it's rude to bother American tourists or businesspeople with unsolicited condemnations of the Bush administration or some US foreign policy issue? Are the Spanish told Americans have a large circle of "personal space," and might not be comfortable conversing at an extremely close distance?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    An interesting question, and I suspect the answer is yes, especially in business and high political circles. How else is it that all those Japanese businessmen give such firm handshakes when visiting here, or that folks from the German branch of the firm know not to close their doors as it signals an unwillingness to be open to others? Foreign leaders always seem to give such professional press conferences, too, which I expect are run a little different in their home countries. I'm just guessing here, but I bet that is the case.

    Also, I think people, when fascinated with another culture, work hard to try out behaviors they observe. When I was in Uganda, kids would sometimes come up to me and ask "Yes, American! How are you doing, man?" There is no equivalent expression of "man" like this in Luganda (its a rather formal society) and I suspect they were excited by the informality of Americans.

    One thing that is different, though, is that few foreigners are traveling to the US to engage in development work where cultural sensitivity is key to the success of projects and where a lot of American materials about this stuff often comes from. We had great cross-cultural training from the Peace Corps (I wasn't in the corps, but we got to go through their training), for example. I would like to see that, though - Latvian development assistance to help Americans grow better cabbage. Better yet - German foreign assistance to assist in the production of better beer. Its just sad to see all those impoverished American taste buds wasting their potential on Miller High Life.

    I notice you use the term "Anglos" - very New Mexican of you. I had never heard this term used for white folk before I moved here (it was usually "white" or maybe "euro').
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    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Having worked in Europe for seven years (Amsterdam and Barcelona), I can tell you that they do have probably more emphasis in the business world than we do here. However, that doesn't extend down to society nearly as much as it does here. I would guess the mass immigration that has always existed here has a lot to do with that - we're a society that has always been open to change - and has changed - so perhaps we feel obliged to be sensitive to the cultures of others. I dunno.

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    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I work for a corporation (Bank) that has its home office in the Nether;ands and BOY do we DO "diversity"...

    Even in Itasly, where I coem from, PC 9in teh ebsts ense of the expression) is makign inroads though i woudl agree that we're well behind US/UK/Northern European societies in this.

    We're a company that is 99% based on people, in a fiercely competitive industry, so actually being, as well as being perceived to be, as accepting of all varieties of people is obviously a business necessity. As well as nice.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    I can only speak for one company and one culture. When there was joint venture with a Japanese Company, their people were sent to the United States, but could not bring their family with them for the first year, so that they would learn the English language and our customs. Naturally we had to learn to speak Japanese and their customs prior to their arrival in the States. It was an interesting experience and we and they felt sad when they returned to Japan, after being the United States for a few years. They also felt sad. We both learned a lot about each others culture.
    As a side note Mrs Katt and I still speak Japanese to each other on occasion.
    So I can only speak from one very positive experience that lasted a few years.

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I think that 80% of the time, the trainer offends me. I once went to a class that said that I should not eat a pork sandwich in front of (I can’t remember the culture) because it offends them. I am sorry, but I am in the USA, if they are going to serve me a tender BBQ pulled pork sandwich, I will enjoy.

    It also reminds me of the group of museums who were asked to leave the plane because of suspicious behaviors and complaints from the people on the plane... then the museums turned around and said that ‘their rights were violated and are now trying to sue the passengers who complained and the airline!
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    It does remind me of one funny story that one of my former co-workers (a native of Barcelona) told me about some American sensitivity training that he went to. The priceless nuggets:

    1. Americans like it if you treat them more as a friend than as a business associate - no one in America wants to have to be "formal" with others.

    2. Try to avoid bringing up religious beliefs, but if you must, never admit to being less than a weekly church attender, and never, ever admit to being an athiest. He was told that this was one of the easiest ways to offend an American.

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    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    It also reminds me of the group of museums who were asked to leave the plane because of suspicious behaviors and complaints from the people on the plane... then the museums turned around and said that ‘their rights were violated and are now trying to sue the passengers who complained and the airline!

    Off-topic:
    I didn't know that they allowed "museums" to fly. What the hell is the world coming to?

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    SOMEBODY should teach Yankees how to interact with Southerners. Boy, talk about pissing off a whole region!!! Maybe we need a southern consulate for this.

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    SOMEBODY should teach Yankees how to interact with Southerners. Boy, talk about pissing off a whole region!!! Maybe we need a southern consulate for this.
    Maybe ya'll Southerners should bring up the whole Secession thing again. Maybe us Yankees will agree this time!

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    SOMEBODY should teach Yankees how to interact with Southerners. Boy, talk about pissing off a whole region!!! Maybe we need a southern consulate for this.
    To quote Reese Witherspoon from Sweet Home Alabama "People really need a passport to come down here!"

    I miss the South dearly.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Yankees in the South

    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    SOMEBODY should teach Yankees how to interact with Southerners. Boy, talk about pissing off a whole region!!! Maybe we need a southern consulate for this.
    If you don't like us in your territory maybe you should stop selling us your land.

    Oh ! Excuse me, I forgot that you need our tax money so you can continue to freeload behind your SOH tax cap.

    Moderator note:
    Unacceptable. This is a thread about sensitivity training, not Florida planning. Post on this elsewhere or drop it. - Mastiff
    Last edited by Mastiff; 28 Jun 2007 at 11:56 AM.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess View post
    SOMEBODY should teach Yankees how to interact with Southerners. Boy, talk about pissing off a whole region!!! Maybe we need a southern consulate for this.
    Fine. We'll stop retiring down there if y'all stop going on Jerry Springer.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
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    Fine. We'll stop retiring down there if y'all stop going on Jerry Springer.
    Wow, it's a new un-civil war...

    I've wondered about that too: do other cultures worry about offending Americans? Or can we even be offended? Maybe some of our media outlets should take some of that training...
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    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    One more north vs. south comment and this thread will be closed.
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